Rouhani says Iran will boost nuclear activity after Natanz attack

The president promises to boost uranium enrichment in response to the Natanz attack, which he says will strengthen Iran’s hand in nuclear talks.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his administration will do its best to negotiate the lifting of US sanctions on Iran [File: Alexei Druzhinin/Reuters]

Tehran, Iran – President Hassan Rouhani has said Iran will keep strengthening its nuclear programme and continue negotiations to revive the 2015 nuclear deal in the wake of the attack on its nuclear facility which Tehran blamed on Israel.

“This is the answer to your malignancy,” he said in a televised address on Wednesday in reference to the country’s announcement on Tuesday that it will begin enriching uranium to a new high of 60 percent and deploy new centrifuges in response to an attack on its nuclear facility in Natanz.

“When you commit a crime, we will cut off your hand. We cut off both your hands, one with IR6 [centrifuges] and one with 60 percent [enrichment]. Of course, we won’t wait,” he said.

Iran will not be idle when its legal nuclear activity overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is sabotaged, the Iranian president said.

Isfahan’s Natanz facilities were hit with a large blackout on Sunday, the second attack in less than a year, in what Iran said was an act of “nuclear terrorism” orchestrated by Israel.

Kamez Gharibabadi, Iran’s representative to international organisations in Vienna, said in a tweet that 60 percent enrichment will be done in two cascades of IR4 and IR6 machines, and “we expect to accumulate the product next week”.

Iranian officials have said they intend to use the enriched uranium to produce molybdenum, ultimately to manufacture radiopharmaceuticals.

Retaliation for Natanz attack

Rouhani said on Wednesday his administration will do its best to get results from nuclear negotiations in Vienna as soon as possible to lift US sanctions imposed unilaterally after former President Donald Trump abandoned the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018. JCPOA is the official name of the landmark nuclear deal signed under former US President Barack Obama.

“You thought you would empty our hands in the negotiations. We will go there with fuller hands,” he said.

The president further criticised his opponents in the country, who have openly called for cancelling negotiations since they deem them a ploy to get more concessions from Iran.

“Don’t be afraid of negotiations,” Rouhani said addressing hardline politicians, whom he accused of exploiting the nuclear talks spearheaded by his administration to lift US sanctions ahead of June elections.

Rouhani also promised retaliation against Israel if Iranian intelligence agencies conclude it was behind the Natanz attack.

The two countries’ decade-long shadow war is increasingly spilling out into the open as several Iranian and Israeli ships have been attacked in recent months and a top Iranian nuclear and military scientist was assassinated in November.

Following the Natanz incident, an Israeli ship was targeted off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) by what Israeli reports are saying was a missile.

Moreover, Iranian media said on Tuesday an intelligence and special operations centre in Iraq used by the Israeli spy agency Mossad was targeted, with several killed and injured. Israeli media have, however, denied those reports.

Source: Al Jazeera